Mindfulness Is Dead! Long Live Mindfulness! On the Moral Transformations in Modern Meditation Practice

Please join us on Monday, April 2, at 3:30 PM in Denny 203. Erik Braun will lecture on "Mindfulness Is Dead!  Long Live Mindfulness!  On the Moral Transformations in Modern Meditation Practice."

Erik Braun is an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw (University of Chicago Press, 2013); it won a Toshihide Numata Book Prize in Buddhism in 2014. His current book project, tentatively entitled A Great Awakening, explores the role of insight practice in contemporary reformulations of notions about the self and society within the globalized insight meditation scene. He received his Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University.

This talk explores the genealogical development of the deeply seated conditions and characteristics of moral thinking about mindfulness in the contemporary period, particularly in America. This is not a matter of the rules and regulations that stem from meditation, but rather what make those rules sensible and coherent in light of a larger sense of the good. To get at this moral force, the talk will sketch the historical origins of current conceptions of meditation.  Mindfulness will be to seen to draw on divergent sources: a variety of Buddhist perspectives, empirical studies of meditation’s efficacy, the rhetoric of scientific authority, and powerful strains of metaphysical thinking. Using particularly the example of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his formulations of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), the talk will consider how these sources enable morals of mindfulness that challenge the usual boundaries of the sacred and secular.  From a given normative perspective, it can appear that the supposedly real or genuine practice of mindfulness is dead.  Yet we see it lives on—even flourishes—in alternate forms of practice.